Neighborhood Resource Officers Richard Carranza and Art Williams toss old couches and mattresses into the back of a dump truck on Tuesday while working an alley north of the Third Street Promenade. NROs are working with sanitation to clean up the streets. (photo by Kevin Herrera)

THIRD COURT — Neighborhood Resource Officers Richard Carranza and Art Williams were out in force Tuesday, but instead of looking for criminals, they were looking for couches.

The two NROs, who are akin to sheriffs with nearly total control over their own beats, joined garbage collectors with City Hall’s Solid Waste Management Division as they worked to rid the streets and alleys of bulky items that were illegally dumped or tossed by residents who paid to have them picked up.

“We’re cleaning up the streets, literally,” Carranza said.

NROs plan to take turns every week, a move they hope will help them better patrol their neighborhoods by making stronger connections with residents. The partnership with Solid Waste is a good way to keep neighborhoods safe by focusing on nuisances that can lead to bigger problems, said Sgt. Jaime Hernandez, who oversees the NROs.

“These guys are chiefs of their beats and we want to make sure they have true ownership of their beats,” Hernandez said. “This is in keeping with the broken window theory that if you take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves. Getting rid of couches in the alleys discourages people from loitering there.”

Kim Braun, the resource recovery and recycling manager, said the officers provide a few extra hands at a time when illegal dumping is on the rise. Solid Waste in November launched a new program to deal with the demand, sending out a special crew three times a week to work specifically on removing bulky items like couches, mattresses, even an occasional sauna.

“On our customer service line at least 70 to 75 percent of our calls are for illegal dumps,” Braun said. “Since we started this part-time alley crew, we have collected over 700 stops.”

Those who witnesses someone dumping something illegally are urged to contact the SMPD and provide a description and license plate number of the vehicle used, Braun said.

If something just shows up, residents should call customer service at (310) 458-2223. Items should be removed within 48 hours, Braun said.

Those who are cleaning out a garage or are moving can call Solid Waste and request a bin and pickup for large items. There is a fee associated with the service.

“The cops are a big help for us,” she said. “ It’s a hard job. It gives us more bodies out there and allows them to get out even further into the community and meet more individuals.”

Carranza said he and Williams were approached by residents who questioned why cops were wearing orange vests and work gloves instead of their regular uniforms. Once they explained what they were up to, the residents seemed pleased and appreciative, Carranza said.

“It’s funny, when I was out driving around today, I said to myself that I never thought I would be doing this when I signed up [for the force]. But it was good,” Carranza said.

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